Fantasy NASCAR DFS and Seasonal Preview: Sonoma 350
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway in wine country of California for the first of two road course races on the circuit this season.
Drivers either love them or hate road courses, with very little opinions in between. And Sonoma, as well as Watkins Glen, are an opportunity for some of the smaller teams to bring in "ringers", or road-course specialists, to compete with NASCAR's big boys. For instance, Premium Motorsports has Cody Ware behind the wheel of the No. 55 machine qualifying for a spot. Although he is not included in DraftKings' or NASCAR's Fantasy Live game this week, he does appear on the C-List for Yahoo! Sports.
BK Racing gives the keys to Dylan Lupton ($5,700) for the No. 93 machine, and Go FAS Racing might have the best ringer of all in Patrick Carpentier ($6,000). Lupton has a $5.00 salary in NASCAR's Fantasy Live, while the more experienced Carpentier will cost you $10.00.
If you're going to go with a ringer, and have plenty of salary cap room to spare, Carpentier is the best bet. But Lupton and Ware aren't bad options for your last roster spot, allowing you to save plenty of salary to allocate elsewhere. We've seen Carpentier at Sonoma twice before, and he managed a career-high 11th-place finish with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2009. He'll also be the wheel man for Go FAS at Watkins Glen. In Yahoo! Sports leagues, Carpentier is the unanimous choice among the trio, as he has the best results in the past, although it's been a while since he has driven in Cup. In fact, it has been almost five years.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses)
[caption id="attachment_41835" align="alignright" width="300"] Jimmie Johnson has nine Top 10 finishes in 14 career starts at Sonoma Raceway. PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel E. Dobish[/caption]
Toyota has won three of the past four races at Sonoma, while Ford has managed the other victory during the span. Chevrolet has posted just one checkered flag in the past nine starts at the track courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($10,100) in the 2010 race. Johnson checks in third in Driver Rating with a 112.3 mark over the past five starts at Sonoma, running a circuit-best 92.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, according to NASCAR's Loop Data. In 14 career starts he has nine Top 10s and 12 Top 20s, and the California native has a 12.4 Average-Finish Position (AFP), which ranks third among all drivers. Needless to say, he isn't a bad No. 1 DFS or seasonal option across the board in all formats.
Johnson's teammate, Kasey Kahne ($8,700) will also be a surprisingly effective play this week. Over the past five starts at Sonoma he checks in fifth in Driver Rating at 96.4. While hasn't actually led any laps during the stretch, he has run 73.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 while posting a respectable 10.8 AFP. He and Johnson are the only two Hendrick drivers in the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the span, not Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,700). Avoid the popular and high-priced driver.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,300) has shown he has strong driving ability on the road courses, and he is fourth among all drivers in Driver Rating at 98.5 over his past five starts at the track. He has led 66 laps during the span, and he has a win, five Top 10s and a 21.0 AFP in 10 career starts at Sonoma.
Penske Racing's Joey Logano ($9,500) is still searching for that elusive first win at Sonoma, but he won last season at Watkins Glen, showing his chops on the road course. While Sonoma is a different track than Watkins Glen, obviously, he showed his versatility and attractiveness outside of an oval. In seven career starts he has three Top 10s and six Top 20s, posting a 14.3 AFP to rank fifth among all drivers. Teammate Brad Keselowski ($8,100) is less of a threat to win, managing just one Top 10 in six career tries at Sonoma, rolling to a mediocre 19.8 AFP. Despite the attractive mid-tier salary, avoid the Blue Deuce.
Stewart-Haas Racing's stable of drivers will likely see plenty of exposure in DFS. Team co-owner and driver Tony Stewart ($8,900) is coming off a seventh-place showing at Michigan. Among the Cup regulars, he is one of the best at road courses, too. In 17 career starts he has two career wins, five Top 5s, nine Top 10s and a 12.4 AFP with 82 laps led. His AFP is second among all drivers, and these two road course stops might serve as his best chance to sneak into the Chase in his final season, assuming he can also get into the Top 30 in the points standings.
Smoke isn't the only attractive SHR driver this week, though. Kurt Busch ($10,700) leads all drivers with a 120.5 Driver Rating, 136 laps led and a 4.4 AFP over the past five Sonoma races, running 84.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. In 15 career starts he has a win, seven Top 5s and 197 laps led to lead all drivers, too. He is an attractive must-start play despite a high price tag at DraftKings and NASCAR's Fantasy Live ($28.00). Kevin Harvick ($10,400) has never won in 15 tries at Sonoma, but he has a 15.1 AFP with four Top 5s and 11 Top 20 finishes, making him a sharp play. In Yahoo!, you have to choose between the two, and Busch is slightly more appealing. Really, it depends on how many starts you have remaining, as Yahoo! limits you to using a driver nine times in a season. Both make for good No. 1 options.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch ($9,800) won last year's race at Sonoma, his second-career checkered flag at the track. He is boom or bust at the road course with just three Top 10s in 11 career starts, posting a mediocre 19.1 AFP. Save Rowdy for another track in Yahoo! despite his success last season at Sonoma. Denny Hamlin ($8,000) has struggled with a 22.7 AFP and just two Top 10s in 10 career starts at the track, and teammate Matt Kenseth ($7,600) isn't much better with a 22.1 AFP in 16 starts. Avoid all JGR cars this weekend. If you must have one, Carl Edwards ($9,100) has a win and respectable 16.4 AFP in 11 career starts. He is your best bet from that team.
Fantasy owners might normally skip over A.J. Allmendinger ($9,600), and despite his success on road courses he can be passed over with a high price tag at Sonoma, too. However, he is an attractive B-List option in Yahoo!, and a must-have in NASCAR's Fantasy Live at just $15.00. That's because he has two Top 10s and four Top 20s in seven career runs at Sonoma, and he generally saves his best efforts of the season for road courses. His price tag is too high at DraftKings based on his history at Sonoma, but he is a great play in the other formats.
Clint Bowyer ($7,700) has had a forgettable lame duck season, as he bides his time before moving over to Stewart-Haas Racing next season to replace Stewart. While Bowyer has picked it up somewhat in recent weeks, he still hasn't produced great Fantasy results. That will change this week at a place he has always been comfortable. In fact, he leads all drivers with a sparkling 8.6 AFP in 10 career starts, winning in 2012 while posting six Top 5s with eight Top 10s. As a No. 5 or 6 driver in DraftKings, he is a steal at this price level.
Lastly, Jamie McMurray ($7,800) is a good value as a No. 4 or 5 driver and salary saver. While he hasn't won in 13 tries at Sonoma, he ranks ninth on the circuit with a 16.2 AFP, finishing 20th or better in 11 times.
NASCAR FANTASY LINEUPS FOR SONOMA
|No.||Driver||DraftKings Salary||No.||Driver||Fantasy Live Salary||No.||Yahoo! Sports Driver|
|1||Kurt Busch||$10,700||1||Kurt Busch||$28.00||1||Kurt Busch|
|2||Tony Stewart||$8,900||2||Jimmie Johnson||$26.00||2||Tony Stewart|
|3||Kasey Kahne||$8,700||3||Kasey Kahne||$20.50||3||A.J. Allmendinger|
|4||Jamie McMurray||$7,800||4||A.J. Allmedinger||$15.00||4||Patrick Carpentier|
|5||Clint Bowyer||$7,700||5||Patrick Carpentier||$10.00|
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